Bangkok – City of Angels
As the political, economic, cultural, culinary, and spiritual capital of Thailand, Bangkok features both old-world charm and modern convenience, at times served up in an apparently chaotic manner, but always with a gracious smile.
Invariably, every Thailand holiday includes a visit to the kingdom’s capital city, Bangkok, or Krung Thep, “the city of angels” as it is known to its inhabitants. Many tourists who travel to Bangkok are immediately overwhelmed by the sheer size of the city and the vast number of attractions Bangkok has to offer. Indeed there is a wide variety of Bangkok sightseeing opportunities spanning more than two centuries of rapid development following the city’s founding in 1782 by King Rama I, the first king of the present Chakri dynasty. Since that auspicious date, Bangkok has swelled to a cosmopolitan, 21st century city of more than ten million inhabitants.
While the immensity of the city and its bustling streets can be intimidating at first, those who spend some time in Bangkok are quickly enamored by the myriad of attractions Bangkok contains, from exotic temples, which underscore Thailand’s strong Buddhist history, to modern shopping malls, which make shopping an integral part of any Bangkok holiday. Bangkok features attractions guaranteed to please visitors either simply passing through the city or spending their entire Thailand holiday in Bangkok. Nearly every Bangkok holiday includes a visit to Thailand’s Grand Palace, arguably the premier Bangkok sightseeing attraction. Situated in the heart of Bangkok’s Rattanakosin Island, the gleaming spires of the Grand Palace are conveniently located nearby Bangkok’s most spectacular temples, including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaeo), the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), and Wat Pho, which features an enormous reclining Buddha and was home of the first Thai massage school in the kingdom.
These iconic destinations are top attractions to all visitors who travel to Bangkok looking to appreciate Thailand’s unique cultural traditions. In fact, there are more than 400 functioning Buddhist temples throughout the city and it’s not uncommon when you travel in Bangkok to spot saffron robed monks collecting morning alms or traveling throughout out the city, including along the Chao Phraya, the “River of Kings”, which passes alongside the Temple of the Dawn. The winding Chao Phraya is connected by numerous canals from which Bangkok has earned its nickname the “Venice of the East”; when you travel around Bangkok, a cruise on the Chao Phraya, a visit to a floating market, or an exploration of the cities “back alley” canals (khlongs) are themselves unique Bangkok attractions.
Other historical and cultural Bangkok sightseeing ‘must sees’ include the National Museum, Vimanmek Mansion, and Suan Pakkad Palace, all of which either house fine art or are national treasures in their own right. Beyond Bangkok’s historical district, there are plenty of other attractions that make a Bangkok holiday both enjoyable and memorable. The downtown districts along Silom and Sukhumvit Roads have a convenient electric rail system, including an elevated sky-train and underground subway, that have made travel in Bangkok both easy and enjoyable.
Connecting hotels directly to shopping malls and traditional markets, such as Mah Boon Krong Center and Chatuchak (JJ) weekend market, the MRT and BTS systems have literally elevated Bangkok shopping to world-class status. Of course, no Thailand holiday is complete without experiencing Thailand’s vibrant nightlife. Whether, the purpose of your Thailand holiday is to immerse yourself in Thailand’s unique culture or simply to splurge in Bangkok shopping malls, when you travel to Bangkok you are guaranteed a fascinating experience of both old-world charm and modern convenience and luxury.
As one of the premier tourist destinations in Thailand, Bangkok has innumerable attractions, including temples, markets, palaces, and museums, ensuring that visitors with any interest will find something to keep them entertained on their Bangkok holiday.
The following are some of the most popular attractions in Bangkok:
Probably the most visited and remembered landmark of Thailand, The Grand Palace in Bangkok is where every visitor must pay a visit at least once in their lifetime. The construction of the Grand Palace began in 1782 during the reign of King Rama I, the founder of Chakri Dynasty, to become a royal residence, and it has been the utmost architectural symbol of Thailand ever since. The Grand Palace served as a significant royal residence until 1925 and is now used for ceremonial purposes only.
The Grand Palace is divided into three main zones: The Outer Court, home to royal offices, public buildings and the Temple of Emerald Buddha; the Middle Court, which is where the most important residential and state buildings are; and the Inner Court, which is exclusively reserved for the king, his queen and his consorts.
Right opposite the northeastern corner of the Grand Palace complex finds the sacred Bangkok City Pillar Shrine. According to the ancient Siamese (Thai) belief, a city pillar needs to be installed upon the establishment of a new city to symbolize the stability of power. King Rama I of the current Chakri Dynasty erected the first city pillar on Sunday, April 21, 1782 at 6.54 am, when he moved the capital city across Chao Phraya River from Thonburi to Bangkok.
The pillar was made of cassia wood (known as Chaiyapruek in Thai) gilded with gold leaves, measuring 29cm in diameter and 187 inches in height. Inside the city pillar there’s a space to store Bangkok’s horoscope. The City Pillar Shrine then was the very first building King Rama I had built for Bangkok, prior to the Grand Palace.
King Prajadhipok Museum is situated in the area of the Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning Building at the Parn Fah Leelad Bridge. It was built during 1906 with the architecture style in the era of King Rama 6th and King Rama 7th. In King Rama 7th’s era, The King restored this museum as a museum to keep His personal properties and all the important photos and documents. This museum is considered as the most completed museum that uses the new technology to describe all the displays.
The museum consists of 3 levels. Each level has its own story to portray about the King and the Queen. At the first level, is where the story of the Queen is portrayed from Her biography to Her royal duties and also Her Majesty’s private properties. At the second level displays the biography of the King from His youth, His coronation and His death. Moreover, there are also the stories of the King’s hobbies such as music, sport, movie. At the third level are the King’s private properties such as His clothes and His royal duties.
Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimonmangkalaram or Wat Pho, as it’s commonly known, was built in the 16th century and regarded as the royal temple of the reign of King Rama I, is famous for two things: (1) the 46-meter-long Reclining Buddha built in 1832 featuring the feet beautifully inlaid with mother-of-pearls and (2) the Thai massage.
Wat Pho is also regarded as the country’s first public university as when King Rama III ordered a restoration of the temple, he demanded a revision of lost sciences, segmented into eight categories and engraved them onto several stone inscriptions (later been registered the UNESCO Memory of the World since 2008) so people were free to read and learn—and Thai massage was one of eight the categories. After wandering around wall paintings, you can stop by at the massage pavilion to try traditional Thai massage using ancient techniques to release muscle tensions. A selection of Thai massage courses are also available for those who are interested.
Perhaps the best known Bangkok’s district among young and budget travelers, Khao San Road is a short street located a kilometer north of the Grand Palace. Described by Alex Garland in his best selling book The Beach as “the centre of the backpacking universe,” Khao San Road certainly has everything a single backpacker would need: a wide range of budget accommodations, an array of restaurants and bars offering international foods and drinks, an army of food trucks offering Pad Thai (and other Thai street dishes), money exchange counters, tour operators preparing packages to elsewhere in Thailand and neighboring countries. Before turning into a travelers’ hub, Khao San was one of Bangkok’s main rice (khao san in Thai) trading port, and that’s where its name came from.
With its convenient location, travelers staying on Khao San Road can easily get around the old town on foot or bicycle, visiting Bangkok’s cultural landmarks like The Grand Palace,Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Pho, the City Pillar Shrine, the National Museum and the National Gallery.
Bangkok’s Chinatown, Thailand’s largest Chinese community, is commonly known among Thais as Yaowarat, according to the name of the road where it is located. The Chinese community dominated trades between Siam (ancient Thailand) and China since the reign of King Rama I, centered around Ratchawong Pier, while the construction of Yaowarat Road hadn’t begun until 1891 during the reign of King Rama V. Today, Yaowarat is widely known as the kingdom’s largest center of gold trade and a great foodie destination. Yaowarat simply has two faces: If you visit Yaowarat during the day, what you see along both sides of this one and a half kilometer road are shops selling gold, Chinese herbs, fruits and Chinese restaurants serving authentic cuisine. But if you visit Yaowarat after sunset, the road turns into a street food heaven where a number of food trucks prepare you marvelous food, from Chinese fried noodles to iced Chinese dessert, you hardly find elsewhere.
Chatuchak Flower Market
From beautiful imported roses and tulips to colorful tropical flowers from the northern provinces: welcome to the bustling flower bazaar hidden in the middle of the world’s largest market of Chatuchak. The flower trade takes place only once a week, from around 10pm of Tuesday until 5pm of Wednesday and is easily accessed by BTS Skytrain (Mo Chit station) and MRT (Kamphaeng Phet station).